1 — Try to talk side-by-side, not face-to-face. Walk the dog or talk on the way to practice. Washing dishes or a trip to Starbucks are good places to start.
2 — Make sure that conversations have a specific end point. Discussions that can last forever sometimes intimidate kids and often close down the conversation. A walk that is going to be finished when you get back to the house, or lights off when the kitchen is clean, is a definite end point.
3 — Avoid asking direct questions about your teen. The word “you” seems to put people on the defensive. Asking about kids at school or sometimes about friends will often illicit the answers you want.
4 — Take advantage of late nights. Low lights and darkness outside help develop a closeness and sense of safety.
5 — Not every conversation has to have a point. Just talking about stuff is how kids connect to one another. Hanging out is how they build intimacy with friends and family. These conversations can have the most profound outcomes.
6 — Expect that sometimes the conversation is one-way. Also known to teens as a lecture, in this case, you often have had a chance to think about what you want to say. Your kids aren’t always ready. Make your comments short and sweet. They’ll often follow up later.
7 — Any time is a good time to LISTEN. When they are ready, you need to be, too. If you need to put down what you are doing or get away from the computer, do that. If you need to stay up past your bedtime, expect that. Kids are going to need to get things off their chest at the most unpredictable times.